There are things you probably don’t realize about Damon Wayans. Did you know, for instance, that the 56-year-old actor was clubfooted as a child, which became an attribute of his character on My Wife and Kids? Or that he is the author of two books, including a serious novel about a suicidal 65-year-old woman called Red Hats? Or that before starring on the sketch show In Living Color in the early ’90s, which launched his film career, he appeared on Saturday Night Live from 1985 to 1986, and that he was fired for playing his character as a flamboyant gay cop rather than a straight cop on a live sketch?
Clearly there’s much to learn about the New York City native and brother to Keenen Ivory, Marlon and Shawn. Now playing the Danny Glover role in a Lethal Weapon reboot on Fox (which premieres tomorrow night at 8/7c), Wayans sat down with us to chat about the new show, shooting guns, getting kicked out of schools, having brain surgery (!), his all-time greatest production and who he’d still like to work with.
“I knew I was funny when I got thrown out of my third high school. I had an opinion about everything, and that got me thrown out.”
What did you like about the Lethal Weapon movies? And the Danny Glover character, Roger Murtaugh?
The chemistry was pretty incredible. And the action. It was dark but fun. Murtaugh is a guy who needs some excitement in his life. It reminds me of an episode of The Little Rascals where they took Dickie on this wild ride in this homemade car. I had brain surgery in December, and when you go through something like that you think, “This could be it,” and when you come out and you’re OK, you tend to live life a little scared. I think that’s where Murtaugh is at. Martin Riggs helps him to have adventures, because that’s what life is supposed to be: an adventure every day.
Is it hard to play a role someone else made famous and make it your own?
You have to look at it like doing Shakespeare. When you do something iconic like this, you lose if you try to repeat what they did. This is my interpretation of it.
How are you preparing for the action scenes?
Thus far that’s been all Riggs. Playing into the character, I’ve figured out ways to avoid that stuff. I’ve had to do some running and jumping and shooting, but I haven’t fallen or jumped off a car. The stuntmen are amazing on this.
How about weapons training? Have you fired a gun before?
Yeah, in Bulletproof. And we have a tech on set that shows us how to enter a hostile situation or deescalate a situation. Very helpful.